Jimmy Ernst (born Hans-Ulrich Ernst) was born in Cologne, Germany in 1920. His father was a prominent Dada/Surrealist artist and his mother was a well-known art historian and journalist. When he was only ten years old, Ernst spent his spring school holiday in Paris where he met a number of Surrealist artists, including Giacometti, Man Ray, Miro, Andre Masson, Yves Tanguy, Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel.
In 1938, Ernst traveled to New York by way of Paris and in the year that followed he began to work in oils and made prints from linoleum tiles. In 1940 he met members of the New York avant-garde and some European artists who were there in exile. Ernst had his first one-person exhibition in 1943 and in 1950 he joined the “Irascible Eighteen” group in protesting the anti-abstraction bias of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
In 1951 Ernst became an Instructor at the Department of Design at Brooklyn College and in 1952 he became a U.S. citizen. In 1961 he was awarded the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship. He moved to East Hampton, Long Island in 1969 and in 1982 he was awarded an honorary Doctorate by Southampton College of Long Island University. Ernst was elected to membership of the American Academy and the Institute of Arts and Letters in New York in 1983.
Ernst’s memoir “A Not-So-Still Life” was published in 1984, the same year that he died.